Sunday, October 2, 2022

Coronavirus and bonuses: Here’s how Historic Triangle localities determine which employees are essential

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Pixabay)

Some employees have not stopped working since the coronavirus pandemic began, putting their lives at risk to keep the economy, government and other essential services running.

Some localities like Virginia Beach have opted to give bonuses to employees using money from the CARES Act.

But what about the Historic Triangle? Does Williamsburg, James City County or York County plan to do something similar?

York County

York County Administrator Neil Morgan plans on using money from the CARES Act toward essential workers, too.

“He will be proposing a modest hazardous duty pay allocation for uniformed public safety personnel, but I do not have the details for that yet,” York County spokeswoman Gail Whittaker wrote in an email.

She said Morgan has “authorized two special benefits” for employees considered essential under the CARES Act, allowing them to “carryover” one week of paid vacation to next year and giving them the option to “sell back” one week of vacation in the fall.

The money earned from selling back the vacation week would be based on the employee’s pay rate.

When asked to define how the county classifies essential or critical workers, Whittaker wrote “those necessary to provide and support the health, safety and welfare of the public.”

Law enforcement and fire & life safety are considered essential, she noted.

Whittaker said Morgan has implemented an employee reimbursement grant program “to assist all employees with school-aged children. Employees can receive $250 per child (up to 2 children per household) to help cover the expenses tied to remote learning.”

“He intends to use some of the funding to reimburse the county for a portion of law enforcement and Fire & Life Safety payroll,” Whittaker said regarding the CARES Act funding. “A portion of those funds will go into our health care reserves, which will keep employee health care costs unchanged for calendar year 2021.”

The health care reserves funding will benefit all employees and Whittaker did not have more details as to how much money would be contributed to the health care reserves.

York County previously used some of the CARES Act money toward small businesses.

Williamsburg

“Currently, we do not plan on using CARES Act funds for bonus pay or wage increases,” Nicole Trifone, spokeswoman for the city of Williamsburg, wrote in an email. “Our employees all received a salary increase on July 1.”

“The CARES Act spending restraints specify what types of positions qualify as essential,” she added.

She did not define which employees would be considered essential.

James City County

“We do not plan on doing something similar,” said Scott Stevens, county administrator. “We really just felt like it creates some challenges in the workplace.”

“It’s not just to say we won’t do something,” he added.

Stevens said the money was more for “folks who were in high hazard areas” such as police, fire and EMS.

“There is some positions that have daily interactions with customers and from my understating, they would not receive any CARES Act money,” he said.

Others who would be considered essential are general services workers who help with storm cleanup and prep and people who work at convenience center sites.

Who are considered essential workers in James City County?

“Beyond first responders, we leave it up to our departments,” Stevens wrote in an email. “ As I shared, many of our General Services Employees would be considered essential.“

“The other area with a lot of essential employees is our Social Services Department,” he added.

James City County also provided money from the CARES Act to fund some local nonprofits.

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Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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